As a mineral collector, I was excited to learn that the Weather Channel was doing a reality series on Colorado prospectors (Tuesdays at 7PM MST). Even more fascinating is that one of the people profiled in the series is an acquaintance of mine - Joe Dorris, owner of the Smoky Hawk Claim in Lake George, which has produced world-class smoky quartz/amazonite specimens. Joe operates Glacier Peak Mining, along with his sons Scott and Tim and daughter Krystle, and sells the resulting treasures through his online outfit, Pinnacle 5 Minerals.
I visited this claim in April 2012, along with Skip Simmons, Karen Webber (both from the University of New Orleans), Vince Matthews (our Colorado State Geologist), Encar Roda-Robles (University of Bilbao, Spain), and Pete Modreski (USGS). Considering that all of these folks have their doctorates and are experts in their respective fields, it was quite an honor to spend the day with them. (I was invited because I own one of the claims that Skip requested to visit). At the time of our arrival at Joe's claim, he was preparing for the start of the season, and most of last season's excavation had been buried under a few thousand yards of weathered granitic gravel. Shortly after Joe 'cut us loose' to poke around his claim, I opened a small eroded pocket close to the surface. The pocket produced a number of small, loose, smoky quartz and amazonite crystals not unlike what is featured on the Prospectors show, yet obviously on a much smaller scale.
Our next stop was the Holy Moses Pocket at the Godsend Claim. This is owned by Rich Fretterd, another claim owner featured on Prospectors. This pocket was once home to the largest smoky quartz crystal ever recovered in the United States, at four feet long, doubly-terminated, and an incredible 439 pounds! It was discovered on Groundhog Day, February 2, 2002 and is currently on loan to the Pikes Peak Historical Society Museum in Florissant, Colorado. A 'smaller' crystal at 4.25 feet long and 239 pounds was also recovered from the pocket and has its own display case at the museum. Additionally, a number of fluorite groups up to nine inches across were recovered from this treasure trove. I was able to crawl into the pocket, which is only a couple feet high, on average, around six-to-ten feet wide, and at least fifty feet in length. Some sections are heavily timbered to prevent collapse. The overburden is such that any additional excavation will likely require the use of heavy equipment.
All gawking aside, the sight of such potential fortune is enough to inspire even the most fairweather collector into a feverish pitch, of which Prospectors feeds unabashedly with the unrealistic monetary values placed upon the recovered booty. I expect that the show will generate a mini 'crystal rush' to Mt. Antero and Lake George, similar to the gold fever in Alaska as a result of Gold Rush and Bering Sea Gold, as the popularity of the series grows. Owning a claim near Lake George area, I'm cautiously optimistic of the attention Prospectors will bring to the Smoky Hawk and surrounding digs. In the meantime, it's testament to my wife that the grungy-looking rocks I've been bringing home may be worth something after all!
More pics from my claims: